Sunday, 2 July 2017

Keeping mum costs money

It might be simpler just to do this
In February I wrote a piece called Tell people what you're up to, in which I explained how some pubs don't see the need for accurate and timely publicity, even when they've gone to the expense and effort of putting on a beer festival. A month earlier I had written about the lack of notice the Freshfield Hotel gave for its Winter Ales Expo, something the new licensee there has recently done (see previous post) by giving less than a fortnight's notice for a festival that begins tomorrow.

This weekend has seen the Funky Beer Festival at Southport's Pleasureland which began on 30 June and ends today. It was, I believe, run in conjunction with Cross Bay Brewery, but the problem is that the first publicity as far as I could see was on Thursday in the local paper, the Southport Visiter. I think it had been on Facebook a bit longer, but unless you're already linked to the relevant page or someone points it out to you, you're unlikely to see it - not forgetting that quite a few people aren't on Facebook at all.

The local CAMRA branch, to which I belong, wasn't given any more notice. As I wrote in January:
Oddly enough, most drinkers, including CAMRA members, have lives outside of pubs, such as families, jobs, other commitments, social activities and hobbies, and can't always drop everything at short notice.
It's no good just giving a festival a snappy title and 'cool' video and then expecting drinkers to turn out in droves. It also doesn't make sense to be imprecise about what you're offering. The Funky Beer Festival advertised it would be selling 'craft beers', along with gins and Prosecco, but with no mention of real ales. I'm told that in fact it had around 30 cask beers, but this wasn't clear from the publicity. I'm not the only one who would have little interest in going to a craft-only festival, especially when I can get a good range of real ales in the town centre with no admission charges and real glasses.

The organisers seem likely to lose money, which may cause them to conclude that there's no market for beer festivals in Southport. This simply isn't true, as the recent Beer Street festival organised by the Tap & Bottles showed. Even the last CAMRA festival in the town, despite being dubbed a failure by some (maliciously in my view), managed to make a small profit.

I've tried to think of any other types of events, such as sport, concerts, drama and so on, that expect people to turn out with little or no notice, but most aren't so complacent that they take their customers for granted. On the contrary, they are usually publicised well in advance so that people can make their plans around them. Beer festivals take months to organise, so no one can say there isn't enough time.

It's a cliché that there's no such thing as bad publicity (try telling that to our hapless prime minister), but it's obvious that little or no publicity multiplies the chance of failure. With beer festivals, financial losses can be large: unopened barrels can be sold on, assuming you can find a buyer, but once they have been opened, they can't be moved and have to be used or poured down the drain. Twenty half-full barrels at the end of a festival can lose an organiser close to a thousand pounds.

There's another cliché that can be applied here: spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar.

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